What will be on the Final Exam?

What’s on the Final?

You will need to have a general understanding of

  • the main ideas and theories proposed in the readings by Voltaire, d’Alembert, La Mettrie, Diderot, Mandeville, Rousseau and Condorcet;
  • the way these Enlightenment thinkers situated themselves with respect to the philosophies of Bacon, Locke and Newton, and their criticisms of theologically grounded metaphysics, such as Descartes’s and Leibniz’s;
  • the way these thinkers use empiricist principles to argue for materialism and break new ground in the theory of knowledge and ethics;
  • the way the philosophes, following the example of Voltaire, use philosophy to argue against the social and political status quo.

—Note that you will be tested on all material covered in class, up to and including the material covered in the last lecture. 

You will also need an understanding of issues such as

  • deism and/or atheism versus theism; Manicheism;
  • empiricist versus rationalist conceptions of knowledge;
  • the contested status of metaphysics;
  • the origins of the concept of human rights;
  • theories of morality in the period;
  • the philosophy of optimism, and criticism thereof; 

and specific topics such as

  • Molyneux’s Problem
  • Mandeville’s “Fable of the Bees” allegory
  • the various interpretations of “natural law”
  • pre-Darwinian theories of evolution


What’s not on the Final:

A detailed knowledge of such things as

  • the exact dates of the various thinkers (although you should know roughly when these people wrote what, who was responding to whom, etc.)
  • doctrines of all the various religious sects, etc.

(click here for the Form of the Final)

© Richard T. W. Arthur 2016